Eliminating virus best goal: next VC

Prof David Murdoch. Photo: Supplied
Professor David Murdoch. Photo: Supplied
The University of Otago’s next vice-chancellor says eliminating the Covid-19 Delta variant from New Zealand remains viable and it is too soon to consider a change of tack.

‘‘We’ve still got a good chance of getting on top of this,’’ Prof David Murdoch, an infectious diseases specialist, said.

High numbers of people getting tested suggested much of the public had faith in the Government’s approach and the swiftly imposed Alert Level 4 lockdown should contain spread of the virus, he said.

There were 62 new community cases of Covid-19 yesterday, up from 41 positive cases on Tuesday and swelling the outbreak total to 210.

More than 20,000 people have been identified as close contacts of Covid-19 cases, putting a big burden on a now beefed-up contact-tracing system.

‘‘It was clear from the start there were likely to be a lot of people exposed,’’ Prof Murdoch said.

He was optimistic the highly infectious Delta variant could be stamped out and said New Zealand had done a lot right during the coronavirus pandemic.

The path ahead would include getting as many people as possible vaccinated and Prof Murdoch expected increased mask usage and scanning of QR codes to yield benefits.

University of Otago public health physician Prof Nick Wilson said yesterday morning eliminating Delta was fairly likely, but possibly not achievable for any new, more infectious variant.

‘‘The Delta variant can be eliminated if there are fast and intensive responses.’’

Delta had been successfully controlled in Queensland, South Australia, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

If the outbreak could not be quelled, the Government’s options included switching from an elimination strategy to a suppression strategy, to stop the health system getting overloaded.

Prof Wilson preferred a more intensive effort to regain elimination status, which might include stricter enforcement of rules.

Covid-19 vaccines were good and they might keep improving, he said.

He hoped the outbreak resulted in improvements at the border.

‘‘All up, it is a disease well worth keeping trying to eliminate in New Zealand — and minimising as much as possible if it can’t be eliminated.’’

grant.miller@odt.co.nz

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